Millions of people around this over-exploited planet are struggling to feed themselves on a daily basis. Many of these unfortunates either suffer from acute malnutrition or actually starve to death. Given these circumstances, it is despicable then that hedge fund investors and others playing the ‘futures’ game for maximum profits manipulate food prices to be as high as they possibly can be.
Director-General of the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Jose Graziano da Silva, has recently issued a dire warning about the ongoing effects of food speculation which has lately been on the rise. Future food stocks caught their attentions back in 2007, when they began facing an increasingly volatile market due to the direct effects of wars and escalating climate change. From 1963 to 2007, average global food prices showed a downward trend when examined in the light of overall inflation. However, since 2007, when speculators saw an opportunity to earn massive profits, this situation drastically changed. Today, investors in this potentially lucrative field do not give a damn about how many millions of people suffer as long as astronomical amounts of cash are raked in for themselves and for those whose money they gamble with.
Excessive speculation in the past over agricultural commodities — from coffee, tea, wheat and rice through to just about every naturally produced foodstuff in the market — has resulted in concerned experts further pressurising the United Nations to enforce some kind of accountability and control in excess of the FAO-promoted resolution adopted by the UN in December 2011. However, as yet, the resolution has not made any realistic impression on this issue.
If the situation is allowed to continue unchecked and unregulated, soon food will only be easily available to the rich: indeed, this is already the case in some countries of the world. Here in Pakistan, for example, where an estimated 65 per cent of the population is already struggling to survive below the poverty line, this reality is already set to explode into a serious and alarmingly dangerous situation, which will be further exacerbated if the predicted heavy monsoon brings another round of catastrophic flooding in its wake. Huge areas of precious agricultural land have not yet recovered from the two previous, highly destructive monsoons and a large number of flood-affected people have yet to rebuild their lives. Even these displaced people still have difficulty affording food in order to feed themselves.
With global hunger figures as disturbing as they are, hedge fund and future investors to openly profit by taking food — and in some instances water — out of the mouths of the ever burgeoning millions of poor people in the world illustrates the depths of depravity of greedy profit-seekers.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2012.
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